The Road Course of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway turned out to be not as good as it was last year for Rinus ‘VeeKay’ van Kalmthout. At the track where the Dutch driver recorded his first NTT INDYCAR Series win in 2021, he had to settle for a finish in the rear after a chaotic rain race.
In good spirits, VeeKay headed for Indianapolis. After all, the 21-year-old driver of Ed Carpenter Racing had achieved a neat top ten ranking in three of the first four races of the 2022 season, with the beautiful podium place at the Barber Motorsports Park being the highlight. As VeeKay won the GMR Grand Prix in Indianapolis in 2021, both the team and the driver in question dared to hope for a repeat of moves.
Initially things looked good for VeeKay, who even held first position on the hard tire after the first run in qualifying on Friday. Afterwards, however, it turned out to be the highlight of the weekend at the Indianapolis GP circuit: in the second run, on the soft tyre, the #21 Building Tomorrow Chevrolet slumped, leaving VeeKay disappointed with an eighth row of the grid.
For Saturday’s 85-lap scheduled race, which had its start time changed several times due to the threat of rain, VeeKay was keen to show its fighting spirit. After a delayed start and on a wet road surface, the Dutchman had to find his way. A tricky task for VeeKay, who has never competed in a wet race in his five-year racing career in the United States. Nevertheless, the ECR driver quickly worked his way forward: within three laps VeeKay was back in 12th place.
After an early run of first pit stops – VeeKay came in for new tires after lap three as the track dried up quickly – the single IndyCar winner reported to his team that he has ‘great balance’. VeeKay attacked in the top ten, passing a number of riders including Callum Ilott. However, the British rookie did not wish to give up his place without a fight, causing VeeKay to get into trouble.
The Dutchman had to go through the wet grass, whereupon he lost all grip and returned sideways on the asphalt. The rookie Devlin Defrancesco trailing behind could not make his way past the ECR car and rammed into VeeKay’s car. Damage, a stalled car and two laps down was the result.
As far as VeeKay is concerned, the remainder of the match was all about damage limitation. After lengthy repair work in the pit lane, the Rookie of The Year of the 2020 IndyCar season was allowed to hit the road again, only to end up in difficult conditions again. The weather gods did not leave Indianapolis alone: drought and rainfall followed each other in rapid succession.
For VeeKay there was no more than twenty-fourth position, several laps from winner Colton Herta. The Dutch ECR driver cautiously brought his #21 Building Tomorrow Chevrolet to the end to end up with seven points. Despite the challenging race in Indianapolis, VeeKay still occupies a place in the top ten of the intermediate standings: with 112 points, the Ed Carpenter Racing driver is in joint ninth place.
“It’s a shame we didn’t have a chance to compete for the top positions today, because a good result would certainly have been possible,” said VeeKay from the United States. “Friday’s disappointing qualifying result was actually brushed off by the difficult conditions. It was my first IndyCar race in the rain and it was exactly what I expected, quite tricky. I have often wondered what the view would be like with the aeroscreen and now I know that it gets really dirty!”
“I was able to get into the fight for the top ten places when Ilott stuck out his elbows. Because of that action, I hit the grass, which was still wet. As a result, the rear broke out. Devlin clapped on top of it and from then on I was chasing things. The mechanics did a great job getting my #21 Building Tomorrow Chevrolet roadworthy again. Unfortunately, my backlog was already so great that I no longer played a significant role in the race.”
“Let’s hope it was a bad general, predicting a very good performance. Coming week is going to be wild at the Speedway and our results from the recent past offer a lot of hope. I know Ed Carpenter Racing has a strong team ready and can’t wait to – for the third time already! – to participate in the greatest spectacle in racing, the Indianapolis 500,” VeeKay concludes defiantly.
Starting next Tuesday, everything will be dedicated to the 106th edition of the Indianapolis 500, which will be held on Sunday, May 29. The first training sessions will then be organised. Qualifying will take place on Saturday 21 May and Sunday 22 May, the race will start one week after the last qualifying opportunity around